“If writing is thinking and discovery and selection and order and meaning, it is also awe and reverence and mystery and magic….Authors arrive at text and subtext in thousands of ways, learning each time they begin anew how to recognize a valuable idea and how to reader the texture that accompanies, reveals or displays it to its best advantage.”
We are taught to use language in a way that reinvigorates language. We are taught to squeeze out the multiple meanings of a word in a single poem, sometimes in a single line. Our turns of phrase, our colloquial speak, the embedded meanings and code-switching are all what makes the poem rich in the multiple meanings of what it ultimately conveys: the poet’s history, the poet’s geography, the poet’s first language, the poet’s purpose in showing up to the page. And the page itself, full of splendor and the pastoral, hauntings and merriment, means something new and different to each reader who graces it.
The poem can’t find its audience until the poet has turned on the little hallway light of empathy and mercy and meaning. Those are the building blocks of understanding and reconciliation. That is the foundation.
For too long, writers of color have been told there is no audience for our work. That unless we write towards the universal human—which, of course, is code for white person—our work would not be understood, or read or taught. We are told that regardless of the work the poem is doing, we should codify it in a way that it is accessible and understood and praised by the universal human.
Writers of color have and continue to write against the notion that their work will not be received unless a universally white audience receives it. Indeed, we write the books and submit to the journals and magazines, but writers of color have also found ways to use social media to create and sustain language and audience, to reinvigorate the genres of memoir, essay, fiction and poetry and connect with people who may not have found our work conventionally or otherwise.
Very recently, Roxane Gay tweeted a photo of the acknowledgements page from her debut novel, An Untamed State.
Simply writing off social media as a procrastination tool is a mistake. While Gay was procrastinating on Twitter, she also wrote a collection of short stories, a collection of essays and a novel. Twitter has been a way for me to find people who are interested in doing the work of literature.
I met my writing partner on Twitter. I met my beta readers on Twitter. Editors approach me privately using the direct message feature. I have found paid, meaningful work and opportunities through Twitter. Procrastination can be generative. What looks like wasted time is actually decompressing, catching up with peers who care about you and the worlds you are creating, talking through a knot in the narrative until a character reveals themselves in a new way. It is research: article and information sharing.”